I always like my hair to be just so and that means the two ‘C’s and the permanent ‘B’ – colour, cut and blow-dry for any non hair aficianados. I just don’t feel good about me if my hair is not coiffed to my liking. I like my hair well cut on a regular basis, the colour fresh and I like it blow dried very smooth. Humidity and rain are my enemies; a day at the beach or a summer holiday requires deep soul searching and self analysis on my part to arrive at the zen state where my hair can be free. My handbag is never without an umbrella and my suitcases always hold a professional hair dryer and several world wide adapters. When I am in my home town I regularly schedule a blow drying appointment each week and would rather go without food than miss this. Others may consider this rendezvous a spoilt indulgence or an unnecessary luxury but it is my thing and for my overall well being it is money well spent.
Let me explain why I am serving a life sentence in the hair prison – I don’t have easy hair. It’s not really curly nor is it straight – it is slightly frizzy but not interestingly so. It is (or should I say it was) a dull mid brown and is that kind of hair that with a few painted strokes and 30 minutes under the steamer can be easily changed to copper, to plum, to various shades of chestnut or to blonde. On my more adventurous days it has been a combination of all of the above. Although I have tried on and lived with every colour, I am most happy as a blonde. Blonde is my comfort zone and where I have dallied for the longest time. Plum on the other hand was my least favourite and lasted little longer than an evening’s soiree. The men in my life, particularly my father, have never understood my quest for a head of hair that bares no resemblance to the hair that I was born with. I have stopped trying to explain my motives and they, wise men that they are, have stopped trying to persuade me otherwise.
I equate blond hair with France and the French with good hair – by good hair I mean the colour, cut and blow-dry menage a trois. This association goes way back for me and it goes a way to explaining my deep devotion to the hair dressing appointment.
Many years ago in a French hilltop village far away there was a woman (who would be me) with mousy brown hair. It was thick hair – wavy and mid length, the kind of hair that does nothing to offend but that does nothing to excite either. This woman had been a brave soul in her teens and in her twenties; she had experimented with every shade on offer, she had tried every kind of chemical staightening and she had followed many a fashionable style. After motherhood she settled back, quietened down and let the hair recover. She stopped flirting with colours, she grew the length, chopped the occasional layer and more often than not let it dry naturally.
A sojourn in France changed all that when she met the local hairdresser, Jean-Michel. He was young, he was gorgeous and he knew much about women. Jean-Michel wanted to shorten her boring tresses and emphasise her eyes with a new cut. He wanted to highlight her hair to look golden and sun kissed; she was meant to be a blonde he told her, it was only natural…. Mais oui, pourqoui pas she thought? To be in France is to do as the French do, n’est-ce pas?
He cut, he coloured and remarkably she looked and felt like a new woman, almost a French woman. She was a blonde and with that would come change and upkeep. Jean-Michel shrugged and puffed his way through her worries that this new ‘look’ would be high maintenance. High maintenance is only for machinery, he told her. Regular appointments are routine and essential for all women; he said this to her as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. She liked what she saw, she listened and she learned – from that day on a blonde was born.
Jean-Michel taught me the importance of hair grooming and he was so right – French women do have fabulous hair and they do spend time and money on it. I often think hair is a kind of security blanket for many women – we get attached to the familiar and are frightened to change for fear of loosing our confidence. Instead of our personalities determining our hair we often let our hair determine our personalities. It took an unknown person in an unfamiliar country to enlighten me, literally.
I have had many different hair cuts, a zillion blow-drys and a squillion blonde highlights since my days with Jean-Michel but nothing has ever come close to the thrill of that first French experience, xv.